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Disarmament drive yields limited haul in C.Africa
by Staff Writers
Bangui, Central African Republic (AFP) June 08, 2014

Nigeria newspaper says army blocked distribution after critical story
Abuja (AFP) June 07, 2014 - A Nigerian newspaper said that it was prevented from distributing thousands of copies of its Saturday edition by soldiers, just days after it ran a story alleging corruption among army generals.

The Weekly Trust, a national weekly newspaper based in Abuja, said a number of its premises were visited by soldiers, who blocked the papers from leaving the sites.

"The soldiers, who were fully armed, insisted on carrying out the 'order from above' to flip through each of the several thousand copies of Weekly Trust in search of alleged 'security risk material'," the newspaper said in a statement on Saturday.

The raids follow reports of similar incidents by four newspapers on Friday. Four dailies -- The Nation, the Daily Trust, the Leadership and Punch -- all said soldiers had seized copies of their newspapers, with one likening the raids to censorship during military rule.

At least two of the newspapers had published critical articles about the army in recent days.

The owner Media Trust Ltd said the Weekly Trust distribution was blocked at three different sites on Saturday in the cities of Abuja, Kano and Maiduguri.

It comes after the newspaper's daily edition published a story on Wednesday in which it was alleged that army generals were using an Abuja barracks for personal use.

"Even when they finished spinning the newspapers without finding any incriminating item the soldiers still prevented our sales personnel from distributing Weekly Trust to thousands of anxious vendors who make a living from newspaper retailing," the statement added.

While admitting that it had searched its vehicles, the army denied improperly targeting the newspaper.

"It is not true. What is true is that we are conducting searches on vehicles. We are not preventing any newspaper from being distributed," General Olajide Laleye, spokesman for the army, told AFP.

The Nigerian army is currently under pressure for its failure to contain an insurgency by the extremist Islamist group Boko Haram -- a fight which has left thousands dead over the past five years, plus the recent kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls that has caused global outrage.

Nigeria is ranked 112th on the 2014 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.

The Central African government collected several hundred weapons in a disarmament drive on Sunday but admitted it was a modest amount after months of rampant arms proliferation in the crisis-hit country.

The voluntary disarmament day called by Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke was focused on eight districts in the capital Bangui and two neighbouring areas.

In the PK-5 districts, the last hold-out for the capital's Muslims after months of sectarian attacks, French and African peacekeepers collected 69 grenades, 13 bows, 62 arrows, 15 guns and some 200 munitions from around 192 individuals.

In Boy-rabe, the stronghold of the anti-balaka mainly Christian militia that has spearheaded attacks against Muslims, only 15 people responded to the call, handing in just three rockets, three mortars, three grenades and a few dozens munitions.

There was even more modest results in other areas.

But the prime minister at the3 end of day's efforts said, "I feel a great sense of satisfaction, there is a commitment of the people.

He added that the operation was aimed at "reviving the civil spirit of Central Africans".

But he admitted that "the satisfaction comes from the popular enthusiasm and not from what was collected, since three times the amount could return in the night."

One local in PK-5, Ali Yerima, told AFP he had bought five grenades in December when the anti-balaka launched an attack on former Seleka rebels -- a mostly Muslim group that temporarily seized control of the country last year -- as well as other Muslims in the city.

He said he had used four of them since then, and also has three machetes and two knives.

"I keep them because I want peace," he said.

Meanwhile on Sunday, the neighbouring country of Chad rejected claims in a United Nations report that it had supported the Seleka rebels when they seized control of the Central African Republic in March 2013.

An international enquiry set up by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reported on Thursday that "enough proof exists to think that" the rebels "received financial and military support from the government of Chad" to overthrow former president Francois Bozize last year.

Chad firmly rejected the accusations as "fantasies" in a statement on Sunday and called on the UN "to stop once and for all its gratuitous campaign against Chad".

The Central African Republic is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis after the Seleka rebels seizing power seized power last year and were forced out in January, leading to a relentless wave of sectarian revenge attacks. Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in the violence.


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